Pope Francis voices solidarity, closeness to victims of Portugal fires

Pope Francis gives the Wednesday general audience in St Peters Square on Oct 2 2013 Credit Elise Harris CNA CNA Pope Francis gives the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter's Square on Oct. 2, 2013. | Elise Harris/CNA.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the damage done by wildfires raging on the Portuguese island of Madeira, entrusting the victims to the intercession of Our Lady and offering his closeness to their families.

In a letter published Aug. 16 and signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope expresses his dismay at the terrible news and asks for his condolences to be conveyed "to the families of the victims."

Wildfires on the Portuguese island of Madeira and in Spain have so far killed at least five people, and forced hundreds to evacuate their homes. More than 2,000 firefighters have been sent to help fight the flames.

Addressed to Bishop Antonio Cavaco Carrilho of the diocese of Funchal, the letter said that "on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of the Mount, His Holiness entrusts the diocese of Funchal to the Holy Mother of God so that, with her Assumption into heaven, making herself closer to her children here on earth, she intercedes together with Jesus as a luminous sign of the future life we hope for."

Pope Francis asked Bishop Cavaco to convey his "participation in the pain of all those who are grieving, as well as his solidarity and spiritual closeness to those who lost their homes."

The Pope also asked for comfort and restoration to the wounded, urging "the courage and consolation of Christian hope for all those affected by the tragedy."

He gave special mention of everyone working to combat the fires, and closed the letter by extending his apostolic blessing to those affected.

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